Definition of dust in English:

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Pronunciation: /dəst/


1Fine, dry powder consisting of tiny particles of earth or waste matter lying on the ground or on surfaces or carried in the air: the car sent up clouds of dust they rolled and fought in the dust
More example sentences
  • My boots raised small clouds of dust from the ground as I followed the rutted and rocky little goat-trail up the hillside.
  • Old tapes carry a lot of dust or other particles that can clog up your VCR.
  • The door rattled a bit and small particles of dust floated to the ground.
dirt, grime, filth, smut, soot;
fine powder
1.1 [with modifier] Any material in the form of tiny particles: coal dust
More example sentences
  • At least 36 miners were killed and 30 injured yesterday in an underground methane and coal dust explosion in eastern Ukraine.
  • He was working with a stone-dusting crew, a safety procedure to minimise the risks of a potentially fatal coal dust explosion underground.
  • Comets are thought to be remnants from the earliest days of the solar system, containing pristine space dust and other material from this crucial period.
1.2 [in singular] A fine powder: he ground it into a fine dust
More example sentences
  • The tissue was ground to a fine dust, the DNA extracted.
  • Grind the saffron to a fine dust in a pestle and mortar.
  • All that would result would be a fine dust and that'd blow away in the first wind, taking all the goodness of the soil away with it.
1.3 [in singular] A cloud of dust.
Example sentences
  • From time to time, the flash of her camera lights up the dust in whirling clouds.
  • Infrared wavelengths, which are a little longer than visible light, merely wiggle through the dust in the cloud.
  • Troy couldn't see a thing, the dust clouded his vision, and his head had hit into the rock as he had landed.
1.4 literary A dead person’s remains: scatter my dust and ashes
More example sentences
  • When the boy awakened from his coma fully he would discover that all he knew were dead and dust.
  • Before him and everyone else, the army dissolved into dust and ash.
  • He was tense and coiled, and if looks could kill, she would already have been a pile of ash and dust.
1.5 literary The mortal human body: the soul, that dwells within your dust
More example sentences
  • We are mortals, made of dust and need your spirit to moisten our brows.
  • Abraham answered, ‘Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.’
  • Luther said of himself, ‘I am dust and ashes and full of sin.’
2 [in singular] An act of dusting: a quick dust, to get rid of the cobwebs
More example sentences
  • Never the less he gave it a quick dust, fitted the terminator device and left.
  • If it does, a quick dust with a damp cloth will round up rogue particles or pollen.


[with object]
1Remove the dust from the surface of (something) by wiping or brushing it: I broke the vase I had been dusting pick yourself up and dust yourself off [no object]: she washed and dusted and tidied
More example sentences
  • Removing dead leaves and flowers as well as wiping or dusting the leaves of your plants will keep them happy and healthy and keep your indoor garden looking gorgeous.
  • She got up slowly, dusting the specks of dirt off her pants, and walked towards the door.
  • To mark the change there is a huge clean out, the temple is dusted and washed from top to bottom.
wipe, clean, brush, sweep, mop
1.1 (dust something off) Bring something out for use again after a long period of neglect: a number of aircraft will be dusted off and returned to flight
More example sentences
  • It pains me (and I speak from first-hand knowledge) to see these heroes of mine totally neglected, except when they are dusted off like ornaments on our shelves to put on ‘show’ whenever relatives are about to visit.
  • But today of all days he had to bring it out and dust it off.
  • Old wars are re-fought, old loves are rekindled and old friendships are dusted off temporarily before being hastily returned to the box marked ‘gone and pretty much forgotten’.
1.2 Baseball (dust someone off) Deliver a pitch very near a batter so they must fall to the dirt to avoid being hit by it.
2 (usually be dusted) Cover lightly with a powdered substance: roll out on a surface dusted with flour
More example sentences
  • Turn out the mixture on to a surface lightly dusted with flour and shape into a round of about 2.5cm thick.
  • Lightly dust bronzing powder on your forehead, cheeks and browbone, anywhere the sun would hit.
  • Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll the dough out into a 35 cm square.
sprinkle, scatter, powder, dredge, sift, cover, strew
2.1Sprinkle (a powdered substance) onto something: orange powder was dusted over the upper body
More example sentences
  • Whichever noodles you choose, don't forget to dust some diced garlic powder onto them to add more fragrance.
  • She quickly rubbed baby oil all over him and then she dusted him with talcum powder.
  • I imagine them in an eight by six metre space glowing ripe and juicy, dusted with a sprinkling of rain.
3US informal Beat up or kill someone: the officers dusted him up a little bit



dust and ashes

Used to convey a feeling of great disappointment or disillusion about something: the party would be dust and ashes if he couldn’t come
More example sentences
  • A book may safely age, and so it matters not a jot if one waits another year to read it; try it now, 'tis dust and ashes, wait a year, it is a feast, with table settings and all.
  • If he were able to remember - really remember - that voice, he would hunger only to hear it once more, and its perfection would turn all other voices, all other music, to dust and ashes in his mouth.
  • I'm glad, it seems so wrong to think of them lying side by side, even though I know there's nothing left of them but dust and ashes.

the dust settles

Things quiet down: she hoped that the dust would settle quickly and the episode be forgotten
More example sentences
  • When the dust settles on the discussion of the merits and the disadvantages of boarding school life, one fact emerges: no matter how you tell it, it's still high school.
  • The Coastal Development Committee had asked its members to boycott last elections in protest against the leaders never giving an ear to their woes once the dust settles down after each election.
  • And I suspect that when all the dust settles, we'll come up with a new version of the bill in January that the White House has put its imprimatur on from the beginning.

eat someone's dust

North American informal Fall far behind someone in a competitive situation.
Example sentences
  • And his five fellow competitors were soon left eating his dust as he took first place in the Senior Class National Championships.
  • Make sure your brother eats your dust on the go-cart track!
  • These losers might treat you and your friends like dirt now, but they'll end up eating your dust.

gather (or collect) dust

Remain unused: some professors let their computers gather dust
More example sentences
  • A survey last year revealed many parents put the value of unused and unwanted toys gathering dust in their cupboards at up to £500.
  • Often times, they even have a seemingly obsolete computer that is unused and is gathering dust somewhere.
  • Many families also have unused sports equipment sitting in their garage gathering dust, which we can turn into cash.

leave someone/something in the dust

Surpass someone or something easily: today’s modems leave their predecessors in the dust
More example sentences
  • After choosing your desired capacity you should take a close look at performance, since there are some sticks out there that easily leave their competition in the dust.
  • So although I'm sad for her today, she is going leave us in the dust.
  • So what humans need to do is to grow and to continue merging with technology, or else we will be left in the dust.



Example sentences
  • I walked in the center of the city, on the concrete pavements lining the dustless roads.
  • However, such days are happily gone and the dogs and I sit, as I write, in our dustless paradise.
  • The wardrobe and dressing table were dustless, the carpet on the floor was soft and a rich red colour, the light purple silk drapes hung limp on the windows.


Old English dūst, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch duist 'chaff'.

  • Our word dust is related to Dutch duist ‘chaff, meal dust, bran’, and the ancient meaning appears to have been ‘material that rises in a cloud of smoke’. Various biblical uses of dust have settled in the language. To shake the dust off your feet derives from the Gospel of Matthew: ‘And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.’ The phrase dust and ashes, used to convey a great sense of disappointment or disillusion, is found in the books of Genesis and Job. It refers back to the legend of the Sodom apple or Dead Sea fruit, whose attractive appearance tempted people but which tasted only of dust and ashes when eaten. A dusty answer is a curt and unhelpful reply. The expression comes from the 1862 poem ‘Modern Love’ by George Meredith: ‘Ah, what a dusty answer gets the soul / When hot for certainties in this our life!’

Words that rhyme with dust

adjust, august, bust, combust, crust, encrust, entrust, gust, just, lust, mistrust, must, robust, rust, thrust, trust, undiscussed

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: dust

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